June 2004

Eleven States and 14 environmental pressure groups filed a legal brief on June 22 as part of a lawsuit that argues that the Clean Air Act gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. 

These States and groups are unhappy with EPAs rejection of a petition from the International Center for Technology Assessment that seeks to require EPA to regulate GHG emissions from new cars and trucks.  The attorneys for the plaintiff wrote, EPA’s conclusion that it lacks authority to set motor vehicle emission standards for greenhouse gases contravenes the [Clean Air] Act’s plain language.  They further argue that the Act gives EPA the authority to regulate any air pollutant that may adversely affect public health or welfare.

EPA has argued that even if the federal government did have the authority to impose regulations on cars and trucks, it would be the responsibility of the Department of Transportation.  However, the pro-federal regulation attorneys argue, There is no such conflict because Congress explicitly acknowledged that such statutory overlap would occur, and in this case compliance with any Clean Air Act emission standards would have no effect on automobile manufacturers ability to comply with [the Energy Policy and Conservation Act].

The oral arguments in the case are slated for next spring in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  Among those suing the EPA are California, Massachusetts, Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club.  Arguments against the suit (largely accepted by EPA) have been led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, along with the American Petroleum Institute, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce.  (Greenwire, June 23)

Dropping any pretence of objectivity on the issue, Science magazine editor Donald Kennedy and the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Alan Leshner, put together a conference boosting global warming alarmism in Washington, DC on June 15.

The panels comprised many well-known figures from the alarmist camp, including several associated with the ozone layer scare of the late  80s and early 90s.  Many of the panelists concentrated on worst-case scenarios, such as the melting of the entire Antarctic ice sheet (even though the ice sheet has been growing during a period of cooling) mentioned by Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton, or on misleading signs of warming, such as the melting of Kilimanjaros glaciers (which has continued despite proven localized cooling), referenced by Lonnie Thompson of Ohio University.

Many speakers were keen to use the event as a bully pulpit to venture beyond science into politics: You hope that somehow people will understand that we have got to do something now, said Joyce Penner of the University of Michigan.  Some people get it some people are driving hybrids. But there is a problem with the American public.

The models…are good enough to tell us we ought to be starting now to do what we can to reduce emissions, according to Oppenheimer.

In this country it depends a lot on what happens in the next election, said Daniel Schrag of Harvard University and a fellow fan of The Day After Tomorrow with Al Gore. I don’t think we can expect to change the minds of this administration in the next couple of months.

As Roger Pielke, Jr. of the University of Colorado wrote on his Prometheus web site, in contrast to the commentary on the issue by politically-oriented groups, It is another thing altogether when a purportedly non-political professional association like the AAAS, ostensibly working for common interests, legitimizes the practice [of the politicization of science].

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) on June 14 released its draft plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the states automobiles.  It calls for lowering auto emissions by 30 percent below 2002 levels by 2014.  The plan immediately generated significant objections to its cost and constitutionality.

CARB had been charged by a law passed in 2002 with achieving the maximum feasible and cost-effective reduction of emissions beginning in 2006, with all new vehicles meeting the rules by 2009.  The proposals would create two vehicle classes:  one consisting of light trucks and passenger vehicles, the other of heavier trucks.  The 30 percent reduction in GHG emissions would be achieved in two phases, one from 2009-2011, the other from 2012-2014.  Manufacturers would gain credit for producing low emissions vehicles before 2008.

CARB estimates that the regulations will reduce CO2 emissions in the state by 85,900 tons per day in 2020 and by 143,300 tons per day in 2030.  The board admits that the new law will raise the price of a vehicle by $328 in 2009 and by over $1000 in 2015.

Manufacturers point out that car buyers regularly put fuel economy down their list of priorities.  Eron Shosteck of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers told the New York Times (June 11), Its still behind cup holders.   Others have pointed out that CARBs assumptions both on costs and on fuel economy are purely theoretical.

The move also faces legal challenges.  According to Greenwire (June 15), Both industry officials and the Bush administration have indicated for months they may sue on the grounds that California is seeking to regulate fuel economy, a responsibility reserved for the federal government. But California‘s new governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), vowed during his gubernatorial campaign to defend A.B. 1493 against legal challenges.

Several States have adopted Californias plans for reducing fuel use.  Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont have all passed legislation to follow California‘s lead.  CARB will accept public comments until July 7 before reporting to Gov. Schwarzenegger before 2005.

The careful work of Ian Castles, former chief statistician of Australia, and David Henderson, former chief economist of the OECD, in analyzing the implausibility of the economic projections on which the temperature increases predicted in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes Third Assessment Report critically depend was dismissed intemperately by the IPCC late last year (see Dec. 26, 2003 issue). Now, independent experts have confirmed the validity of Castles and Hendersons analysis and exposed the inadequacy of the IPCCs reply.

The debate centers around the validity of using Market Exchange Rates (MERs), as the IPCC does, or Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) as the basis for predicting future economic output. The responses of the IPCC (also referred to in this context as the SRES Teams) have now been reviewed by an expert in economic statistics, Jacob Ryten, a leading figure in the development, evaluation and implementation of the International Comparisons Programme.

Mr. Ryten comments that he “cannot help being shocked by the contrast between the [IPCC] Teams bold assertions and peremptory dismissal of the arguments advanced by Castles and Henderson, and their manifest ignorance of the conceptual and practical issues involved in developing and using intercountry measures of economic product.” Mr. Ryten concludes (referring to the IPCCs choice of MER over PPP) that, “Worse than rejecting a statistical measure of which one is ignorant even though it appears to answer an intelligible question is accepting one about which one is equally ignorant but answers no intelligible questions whatsoever.” Ryten’s paper is to appear in a forthcoming issue of Energy & Environment.

The criticisms have also been investigated by Professor Warwick McKibbin of the Australian National University and the Brookings Institution and two co-authors (the resulting paper is now available on the Lowy Institute website at http://www.lowyinstitute.org/Public ation.asp?pid=129).  Professor McKibbin and his colleagues have also prepared and are considering the publication of a reduced version of the paper which focuses on the SRES aspects. Among its more important conclusions are:

*    The SRES scenarios in their present form are neither transparent nor reproducible. The relationship between the driving force assumptions and projected emissions is “far from clear,” and until this information is made available “it is difficult to assess the usefulness of the SRES projections;”

*    There are various problems with these projections which would arise if the SRES authors had done what they said they had done, but “it may just be that the models did something completely different to what is suggested in the SRES report;”

*    It is crucial to understand the drivers of emissions projections and their sensitivity to changes in key assumptions, but “this understanding cannot be gleaned from the SRES in its current form;” and

*    The broad range of projections produced by the IPCC without any sense of likelihood is “of limited use to policymakers” and is “potentially misleading.”

The current state of the debate was summed up by the Economist (May 27) as follows: “The IPCC claims that measuring at PPP or market exchange rates does not affect the economy any more than a switch from degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit alters the temperature. But the analogy is wrong. PPP and market exchange rates, unlike Celsius and Fahrenheit, are measuring different things. That should not be too hard an idea for scientists to grasp.”

United for Jobs 2004 will hold an energy roundtable for congressional staff on June 15 from 10 to 11:30 AM in Room 188 of the Senate Russell Office Building. Margo Thorning of the American Council for Capital Formation will discuss the new economic analysis of the Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act (see lead story in this issue). Other speakers are Karen Kerrigan of the Small Business Survival Committee, John Felmy of the American Petroleum Institute, and Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The causes and solutions to rising fuel costs will also be discussed.

The Cooler Heads Coalition has decided to accept member organizations from outside the United States. We are proud to announce our initial two new members the Fraser Institute in Canada and Istituto Bruno Leoni in Italy. Both organizations are leaders in the global warming debate in their countries.

Only one-third of European companies that will be affected by the new EU Emissions Trading Scheme have yet addressed the issue by creating a budget for compliance, a recent survey found. The new plan, introduced to implement Europes Kyoto pledges, mandates significant reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases by 2005 and beyond.

The survey by LogicaCMG, a European consulting firm, was aimed at assessing whether corporations were dealing with the Emissions Trading Scheme beyond boardroom discussions and impact studies. They explained, “A good measure of this is the willingness to commit real money in the form of budget allocation.” It was found, however, that 91 percent of all companies are currently taking some sort of action to gauge how the regulatory scheme would affect their profits. Approximately two-thirds of those surveyed have created staff positions strictly for monitoring CO2 regulatory issues.

Twenty percent of the surveyed corporations were unsure as to whether they would be emissions sellers or purchasers. Of these, many felt they must first wait for a market to develop before deciding. The report concluded by claiming that “trading plans are not a high priority at present, with the vast majority understandably focused on actions necessary to prepare for full compliance, at least in the short term.” The lack of planning may explain why companies are only now realizing the serious effects the trading scheme will have on their profitability.

The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has just produced a good review of the evidence concerning the effects of global cooling on the Viking settlements on Greenland from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries (available at www.co2science.org).

Recent reports reconstructing environmental conditions in the vicinity of Igaliku Fjord, South Greenland before, during and after the period of Norse habitations of Greenland have found that the Vikings flourished during times of warming, and that their eventual fall can be linked to falling temperatures.

Susanne Lassen and colleagues Antoon Kuijpers, Helmar Kunzendorf, Gerd Hoffmann-Wieck, Naja Mikkelsen, and Peter Konradi have published a report appearing in The Holocene (Vol. 14, #2, March 1, 2004) specifically discussing Norsemen and the changing Greenland climate. They examined the eventual abandonment of the Viking settlements on Greenland and pointed to an “unprecedented influx of (ice-loaded) East Greenland Current water masses into the innermost parts of Igaliku Fjord” as the culprit.

They concluded that the “stratification of the water column, with Atlantic water masses in its lower reaches, appears to have prevailed throughout the last 3200 years, except for the Medieval Warm Period.” During this period, the scientists believe that living conditions were suitable for settlement and provided an opportunity for the Vikings to prosper, primarily due to the increased nutrients and marine food available.

That was until the Little Ice Age. The combination of a decline of marine food and deteriorating growing and living conditions on land made it difficult to survive. Lassen et al. concluded that, “Climatic and hydrographic changes in the area of the Eastern Settlement were significant in the crucial period when the Norse disappeared.”

A similar study conducted by Karin G. Jensen and also appearing in The Holocene (Vol. 14, #2, March 1, 2004) came to similar conclusions. “Life conditions certainly became harsher during the 500 years of Norse colonization,” Jensen claimed. The auther added that this climate change “may very likely have hastened the disappearance of the culture.”

The co2science.org review (from their June 2 newsletter) concluded by explaining the present-day effects of this study. “Since the peak warmth of the Medieval Warm Period was caused by something quite apart from elevated levels of atmospheric CO2, or any other greenhouse gas for that matter, there is no reason to not believe that a return engagement of that same factor or group of factors is responsible for the even lesser warmth of today.” We would only add that the Vikings or Normans conquered Sicily from the Arabs between 1060 and 1091. They found the climate much more agreeable.

And yet another new scientific paper finds other methodological problems in commonly accepted temperature data. Temperature readings could be positively influenced by “heat island” effects created by the overwhelming proximity of temperature monitoring stations to industrialized regions.

Researchers Jos De Laat and Ahilleas Maurellis, of the Earth Oriented Science Division at the National Institute for Space Research in the Netherlands, conducted a study using a global industrial activity dataset which reveals the spatial distribution of various levels of industrial activity over the planet. De Laat and Maurellis divided the surface of the earth into industrial and non-industrial sectors and plotted their corresponding temperature data from the years 1979 to 2001. They found that, “Measurements of surface and lower tropospheric temperature changes give a very different picture from climate model predictions and show strong observational evidence that the degree of industrialization is correlated with surface temperature increases as well as lower tropospheric temperature changes.” The scientists also added that as the degree of industrialization increases, the temperature increases.

They explained that due to the fact that temperature measurements are most commonly monitored in areas that “are often conducted in the vicinity of human (industrial) activity,” there exists an overstatement of warming. De Laat and Maurellis concluded that, “The observed surface temperature changes might be a result of local surface heating processes and not related to radiative greenhouse gas forcing.” The article was published in Geophysical Research Letters on March 11, 2004. An excellent review of it can be found at www.co2science.org.

Historical climate data that had previously been thought to exhibit a slight warming trend has come under fire in another newly published scientific srticle (see story in the last issue on the McKitrick and Michaels paper). The United States Historical Climatology Networks (USHCN) temperature database, the most widely used and highly respected database available for regional scale analysis in the U. S., has been shown to have significant biases toward higher temperatures that have apparently been overlooked in years past. This finding is evident despite the fact that the dataset had been previously adjusted for a variety of temperature discrepancies, ranging from missing temperature data to the transition from mercurial to electronic sensing equipment. Scientists Robert C. Balling Jr. and Shouraseni Sen Roy found in their recent study published in the Geophysical Research Letters (May 1, 2004) that the USHCN temperature data is considerably upward biased.

Using spatial entropy to estimate disorder in the pattern of temperature changes across the 1,221 USHCN climate monitoring stations, Balling and Roy found that some “questionable warming signals” existed at some stations. Spatial entropy is a measure of disorder or dissimilarity of the distribution of the USHCNs weather stations.

Continuing, “Stepwise multiple regression analyses were conducted with latitude, latitude squared, longitude, longitude squared, and elevation aspotential independent variables in explaining spatial variance in the temperature change values.” They found all of the independent variables to be highly significant with regards to the temperature increase, meaning that some bias must exist within the dataset.

The authors explained their results. “We find that over the (USHCN) network, the spatial entropy levels are significantly and positively related to the observed temperature trends suggesting that stations most unlike their neighbors in terms of temperature change tend to have a higher temperature trend than their neighbors.” Balling and Roy added, “One could conclude that the network still contains unproven warming signals possibly related to lingering urbanizations effects.”

They concluded the article by explaining, “While the developers of the United States Historical Climatology Network have made substantial efforts to eliminate effects of time of observation biases, changes in measuring equipment, station relocations, and urbanization, our results suggest that the adjusted records continue to contain any number of contaminants that increase the temperature trend (warm) at some stations.”